Wednesday marked the first official day of farm work for the Second Wind CSA in 2010. We have long passed the half-way point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. This means the days are rapidly getting longer (4 extra minutes of daylight yesterday!). These conditions signify the season of starting seeds.
The first seeds to start in the farming season are always onions. “Starting seeds” refers to the process of putting the seeds in to a growing medium, watering them, and placing them into a heated area where the seeds will germinate. At the Four Winds Farm, we use homemade potting soil, which consists of screened compost, peat moss and soil amendments. (The compost is actually screened from the greenhouse itself. The greenhouse at the Four Winds Farm is heated during March and April from the heat produced by the composting process, but more on that next week when we actually move a hot, composting mass into the greenhouse.) The potting soil is placed into “flats” and the seeds are placed in thin rows and covered with the soil. The seeds are watered, left to drain and then placed in the refridga-germinater (see below) to germinate. Once the seeds start to sprout, we place the flats in the unheated greenhouse. The onions will grow in the flats until April, when it is time to transplant them outside.
Onions are the first vegetable seeds we start because they require very particular temperatures and day lengths in order to grow good size bulbs. In the north, we grow long day onions because we have much longer days in the summer than in the warm south. Long-day onions put on green growth, or grow tops, in the beginning of the season (April and May) when the weather is mild. They start to increase bulb size when the day lengths are very long, between 14-16 hours. A July harvest is ideal. The onions will stop putting on mass as the days start to shorten. A July harvest also means we have plenty of time to plant a different fall crop where the onions once were.
Other seeds are started based on the last frost date for our region. Our frost date is usually around May 15, which means we can expect the last Spring frost around that day.